I’m hardly the first person to face being a young parent. I was 19 years old when I decided to get married. I had just graduated high school and I thought I knew it all. My husband (if you could even call him that), was a rowdy guy addicted to fast cars and going out every night.
I don’t need to point out the thousands of reasons why it didn’t work, but I learned a lot of things from being on my own since then. As I’m typing this up, advice floods my mind, but I’ve tried to narrow down the most important ones I could give someone in a similar position:
#1. Have a child after marriage and a career. Chances are, if you’re reading this, maybe you jumped the gun and you’re already here. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself over it, like I used to do. Hell, I was married and it still didn’t work out. Choosing to have a child is never easy; I don’t care what those pretentious magazines tell you. It’s a lot of hard work. Trial and tribulation, and just tears from frustration. The point is to know that you made a decision and whether you’re single or married, young or old, jobless or in the career of your dreams, this baby was a choice. Respect it.
#2. It’s all about balance This is tricky. It’s not something you just gracefully enter, but a learned skill. I used to drive myself crazy trying to accommodate the needs of my child, while keeping my itinerary. Balance can happen. Don’t expect perfection, but at least know that things can go as planned on a weekly basis. It takes a lot of practice and patience, but it’s a real thing. Which brings me to my next point.
#3. Learn to keep an Agenda Yes, we live in a technological age where you can set an alarm on your phone or put an event on your calendar. I personally like to write it down in a paper agenda that I carry with me wherever I go, so I can always see what my week looks like. Try to be organized. An agenda can be a miracle worker when you have kids and actually want to plan outings or doctors appt, etc.
#4. It’s okay to have moments of weakness. So you’re saying being a single parent isn’t just cupcakes and rainbows? Yeah. Freakin. Right. It can be a shit show sometimes. My close friends and family have heard my rantings plenty of times to know that having children can be hell. It’s not okay to be weak some days. Allow yourself a pity party once in a while, but then pick yourself up and move on. When you start dwelling more and more, depression can eat you up inside. It’s a lot harder to pull yourself up from that, then it is to acknowledge moments of weakness.
#5. Find hobbies. Yes, find a hobby. Something outside of your child. It doesn’t have to be a weekly commitment, but enjoy an activity that helps make you feel like you’re still your own person. (Browsing Facebook is NOT a hobby. Posting all day about your kids and how bored you are ARE NOT HOBBIES). I can’t tell you how many mothers I observe on social media just looking mildly pathetic sharing things they should call their family to tell about. Social media is a platform to stay connected and share your interests. Unfortunately, not everyone is interested in your kid and not everyone cares what you do everyday. Share your excitement about a rare achievement, post a photo here or there, but please PLEASE please, don’t post all day everyday.
#6. Maintain friendships Both with people with kids & without. Chances are not all of your friends have children, especially if you’re a young parent like me. Maintain friendships with people. Like I previously stated, there are plenty of social media platforms where you can reach out to your friends. Of course it’s harder to just get up and hang out, but with proper planning, you can see some faces other than just your child’s. Having friends on both sides of the spectrum allows you the ability to have play dates with your kids and friends, and also have nights out for yourself.
#7. Ask for advice when you need it. Read books, do research, trial and error it too. Everyone has a freakin opinion about everything. I don’t need to explain this one in great detail, do I? And lastly,
#8. Do not compare yourself to other parents. Let me tell you a story: there was this lady I would see everyday when I would pick up my daughter from school. This broad was what I “fondly” describe as PTA mom of the year. Her hair and makeup were pristine, her clothes modest yet flattering, and apparently she knew all the staff at the elementary. IT WOULD DRIVE ME CRAZY. Her small talk was straight from an episode of Leave it to Beaver, and I felt like smacking her every time I saw her. Then came the moment of truth. It wasn’t because of how “perfect” she appeared to me that had me screaming inside, but how imperfect I appeared to myself. There were days I would rush home from school to pick up my kid, and i’d be in a plain t-shirt and vans with no makeup on, after many hours on campus. It’d aggravate the hell out of me to see someone making it look so easy. And that’s all it was; someone who had practiced so much, that they were able to make parenting look easy. (She also has a very well off husband, but now I’m just being nosey).
Don’t compare yourself to others. This is your journey. Good or bad, you are the chosen parent to that kid and you will always look like a bad ass to them.
I’m sure as I get older I’ll be able to come up with better advice for you single parents and everyone else who reads this. In no way am I perfect, but I hope I am able to give you guys some strategies to cope with the craziness of everyday life. As always, feel free to leave me questions or comments, or straight up venting. (This is a good spot for that).